Tools of the trade Tips

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How can I clean my brush basin?

Cleaning water basins

here are a few suggestions for de grunging your water basins:
1. Detergent and water, in the microwave for a few minutes followed by a light scrub.
2. try bunging it in the dishwasher (I did this but still wasn't satisfied)
3. A nice hot soak in steradent tablets followed by a soapy scrub with a green scourer...a little more work but it works for me.
4. Murphy's Oil Soap, water and in the microwave. I don't have access to Murphy's so I can't verify this one.

Getting the picture here? It is heat that is doing the trick! It softens the paint so it will budge. I am not so sure it matters what you do as long as you use really hot water and a bit of elbow grease!

What tools should I put in my tool box?


Be sure to cary a small star screwdriver with you. You should always unhinge items before painting them and keep the hinges in a safe place. You will also find it handy for screwing hooks and hangers into items you make.

How do I care for my brushes?

Brush Care

You must make the effort to clean your brushes after each painting session. There are a number of great commercial products on the market specifically for this purpose but painters also use laundry soap or shampoo with some success. Use only cold or tepid water. Add the cleaner to the bristles and rub them gently backwards and forwards on the palm of your hand. If there is still paint in the ferrule area gently pinch the bristle with one hand while holding the brush in the other and wiggle them back and forth. Continue soaping, wiggling and rinsing until no more paint comes out.

What tools should I put in my tool box?

Finger Drill

A great gadget is what we call a finger drill. It is like a refillable pencil and has fine drills you can insert in the ends. As you will find a need to drill a hole ready for a hanger you will find such a tool wonderful. It saves waiting for someone else to come along and drill small holes for you. Because it is a manual tool, you will not be too heavy handed and drill an inappropriate hole either.

How do I wet sand?

Wet Sanding warning

Go easy there! If you only have 2-3 layers of varnish it is very easy to sand right through to your decorative work. I have a piece with funny looking eyes because the sanding process took away the doted white I have evil looking angels! Be sure there is a light touch and lots of patience!

How do I join a styrofoam hat to a light bulb ornament?

Wire Cutters

Keep some wire cutters in your tool kit. You will find them useful when wiring up ornaments and hangings.

How do I care for my brushes?


Use Decoarts magic brush cleaner...for almost anything that needs to be cleaned of paint. Soak your brushes, add some to water and soak your stencils, use it to remove paint from clothing. A few drops of magic brush worked into the bristles of your brush will do wonders. Soaked for 24-48 hours you can even rescue some brushes which have been damaged by dried paint.

What brushes should I buy?

Which brush?

Your choice of brush depends on a number of things but the bottom line is you get what you pay for. The cheaper brushes will do the job for a while but and get ratty fairly quickly depending on the quality of the fibre, the glue and the handle. More expensive brushes can last longer, but only if they are properly looked after. Natural fibre brushes such as Sable brushes are more expensive because of the way they are made and are therefore more expensive to begin with. If you are just starting out, buy within your ability to pay. Start with the less expensive until you feel comfortable with a brush in your hand. Then go up. This way your mistakes like getting the brush clogged with paint, forgetting to clean it etc won't cost as much to you if you ruin a good brush straight off the bat.

How can I learn more about brushes?

Get Informed

There are hundreds of different types of brushes out there. You would be doing yourself a favor to read through a brush manufacturers catalogue to improve your understanding of the different types of brushes and how they are made. First let's take a look at Dalner Rowney. This link is for the brushes on their site. Scroll to the brushes and work your way through their collection.
As you turn each page, each of the brushes is described.

What brushes should I buy?

Make Your Own scruffy brush

Scruffy brushes are often called for in painting teddies and foliage. You can make your own! Place a pile of Snow-Tex on your palette. Pounce any flat brush into the Snow-Tex, working it well into the ferrule (until it flares out the amount you want). After the brush is thoroughly dry, wash out about half of the Snow-Tex. The rest will work itself out as you use the brush. Now even beginners can own those treasured "scruffy" brushes.

How are brushes made?

How brushes are made

By taking a trip into Dalner Rowney's acclaimed web site you can take a peek into their brush making factory. Go to and click on the Acclaimed Website button at the bottom right corner. Now click on the Factory Tours from the top row and click on Brushes in the making. The brush making process is described well here.

What is wet sanding?

Wet Sanding

Try adding a few drops of detergent to the water when wet sanding. This helps with lubrication.

What is wet sanding?

Wet Sanding

An important part of the painting process is sanding. Wet sanding means we use water at the same time as sandpaper. This is a really good technique after many layers of varnish are applied and you want a really deep varnished finish. Decoupage artists use this technique for their work when they don't cheat and use two part pour-on resin varnishes. French polishers and fine furniture makers use the wet sanding techniques for that lovely deep colour and shine. So do car body repairers. The water assists in the process of sanding by lubricating between the surface and the sandpaper. The end result is sanding without scratching. There is special sand paper for this technique so be sure to be using wet and dry type sandpaper.

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Guru Spotlight
Carma Spence-Pothitt